When it comes to birding in nature’s hotspots forget Kakadu in the Northern Territory or the wader-rich shores of Broome in Western Australia. South-east Tasmania and especially Bruny Island is the place to be.
BirdLife Australia has recently joined forces with top international wildlife groups and agencies – including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – to map key areas where nature abounds and it was a shock when I looked at the outcome to discover we in Hobart are slap bang in the middle of some of the hottest habitat on the planet.
When I looked out of my kitchen window, to the mist-shrouded slopes of kunanyi/Mt Wellington it was easy to see why.
Tasmania as a whole has the largest number of endemic species in any area of its equivalent size in Australia. What’s more, 11 of the 12 unique species can be found within the Hobart municipal area, and a short trip to Bruny Island will reveal the 12th, one of the rarest birds in the world, the forty-spotted pardalote.
The twin Bruny islands feature heavily in what are termed Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), a system of identifying areas vital to conservation which follows on from a program by international birding organisations to identify areas just important for birds.
The KBAs were revealed to Birdlife Australia’s more than 10,000 members in a newsletter earlier this month, and then in a four-page article in the organisation’s quarterly magazine, Australian Birdlife.
Tasmania has long proved a magnet for both national and international “twitchers” – those birders who compile life-lists of birds spotted – and they are important to our tourist economy. However, when it comes to birding tourism the ongoing controversy over forestry here tends to receive adverse publicity both within and beyond our shores.
In the article in the autumn edition of Birdlife magazine the threat of logging on Bruny Island comes in for special criticism.
“The entirety of Bruny Island is designated as a KBA, but for this peaceful place, logging is an ever-present threat to the local forests and the critically endangered swift parrots which often use them in summer to nest,” the article states.
“With known swift parrot habitat on Forestry Tasmania’s chopping block, Birdlife Australia is calling on both the Tasmanian and Australian governments to ensure appropriate management of habitat that is beneficial to swift parrots.”
The island has become famous among birders on the mainland for its biennial Bruny Island Bird festival and many of the accommodation businesses there cater for the twitchers. One, Inala advertises that all 12 endemic species can be found on the property, which borders a coup that is scheduled for logging under the current Liberal government’s plans to open up more land for logging.
Another swift parrot area scheduled to fall under the axe is the Wielangta Forest on the east coast. Although this forest is included in the general south-east Tasmania classification, a little further north Moulting Lagoon on the route from Swansea to the Freycinet Peninsula is, like Bruny, given its own location as a key biodiversity area.
The lagoon is noted as an important site for waterbirds, especially waterfowl which often arrive at its marshes at times of drought on the mainland.
The key areas can be found at www.keybiodiversityareas.com